I’m about four days from completing my very first marathon – the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I’m terrified and I’m excited and, to be perfectly honest, I’m finding it very difficult to put this whole experience into words. I’ve tried several times to write a blog post talking about why I decided to run a marathon, and every time I’ve gotten a few paragraphs in and scrapped the whole thing. The truth is, I’m not entirely sure why I’m running it – yet here I am, with less than a week to go!
My training has been rather free-form. I’ve aimed to do at least a couple of 5-10 km runs throughout each week and I’ve added on a couple of kilometres to my long runs on each weekend. I have also added strength training back in to my routine, and I am just loving that!
So how has it all gone?
Well. I’ve chafed in places I didn’t realize it was possible to chafe. I’ve also learned that there can be such thing as too much BodyGlide. I’ve gotten blisters on top of blisters, and sought out the measures I can take to avoid blisters (hello, my new friend moleskin!). I’ve become a connoisseur of energy gels (for the record: Gu Peanut Butter flavour is my favourite, followed by Salted Caramel. Espresso Love and Chocolate Outrage are tolerable but not preferable). I’ve discussed the finer points of electrolyte replacement beverages (Nuun is my go-to now). I’ve required more food than I ever thought possible. I swear, it feels like there’s a black hole inside me instead of a stomach! (“Some people,” my good friend warned me, “may ask if you lose weight during marathon training. You don’t. Because you’re eating so much. All the time.” This is truth.)
I’ve burst into tears while running on more than one occasion. My longest run, 32 km, was a disaster. Nothing felt “right”. My legs, stomach, and head were all conspiring against me. I ran it on a Monday afternoon instead of on the weekend, and as the day turned into night, my sweat turned cold. My stomach growled. When I finally made it to my neighbourhood, I knew I wanted a nice comforting burrito bowl. Guac and cheese? Yes, please! But I stepped to the door of the burrito place at 9:02, only to find they closed at 9:00. I cried on the short walk back to my apartment, hoping no one would see me and ask what was wrong, because I knew even in my run-addled state of mind that “The burrito place was closed!” was going to sound absurd to pretty much everyone. (Happy ending to that story: the Chinese place next door was still open!)
Most recently, I started a run this weekend only to be greeted with a foreign, burning pain in my knee. Panic set in immediately. What was this? What did it mean? Was I injured? What if I couldn’t run the marathon? I let out a full-on sob and alarmed a woman walking nearby, who seemed rather skeptical when I insisted I was okay. The pain worked itself out a few minutes later, thankfully!
Still, it definitely hasn’t all been painful. There have been some wonderful and joyful moments. I’ve been very lucky to I have two friends who are also running marathons this year to share much of the training with. Many of my long runs have been spent in their company, and I can’t express enough how much their support has eased the process. With them, I’ve run through trails and through the city, laughed, commiserated, listened to stories and told my own, and tucked into several incredibly delicious post-run brunches. Both of them are running STWM: one (my triathlon buddy) will be doing the half-marathon as preparation for her full marathon in November, and the other I’m fortunate enough to be running the whole 42.2 km with on Sunday!
Finally, because this is my first marathon, I wanted to mark the occasion by fundraising for a worthy cause. I have been raising funds for Oolagen Youth Mental Health, a centre that runs a city-wide walk-in counselling service for youth aged 13-18 years and their families. If you would like to support me, you can do so here: https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/FundraisingPage.aspx?registrationID=2503535&langPref=en-CA
I have no idea what it’s going to be like to run 42.2 kilometres.The build-up is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. I have random moments where I let out an audible “eek!” to myself just thinking about it. But those who have already done it have told me that the feeling of crossing the finish line is like nothing else. I can’t wait to find out.
Stephanie is a PhD candidate in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. She is also a triathlete, photographer, drinker of craft beer, and marathoner-in-training.